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Belleville


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Belleville | The heart and soul and food

Published by Oat Sitalasai — 4 years ago

I'm now going into my fourth month here in Paris, and man, how time really flies. I have been to Paris before, but there's no further discussion there are massive differences between being a tourist, and actually being a resident of the city. I try my best to benefit from my time here in Paris by discovering as much as I can. Obviousl, in the early period of my stay, I went to see all the things that a regular tourist would see. I took time out from school to visit The Eiffel Tower, The Champs Élysées, the Arc de Triomphe, The Versailles Palace, The Garden of Luxembourg, Opéra, and the list just goes on really. But for this particular post, I would like to share with all of you my current favourite area in the whole of Paris, in the 19th and 20th arrondissements of the city.

This area is the one and only Belleville. Just a brief description of what it is now, it is something completely different from the posh areas you may have walked through. It's got a similar vibe to the Montmartre area with its artistic elements, but yet quite different. I feel certain aspects from the lively bar streets of the Latin Quarter as well as the Saint Michel areas, but again there's just something quite unique. It's also referred to as the second Chinatown, but I disagree, because it should actually be the first Chinatown. There are so much uncertainties, but if anything, curiosity leads to exploration and new discovery!

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Take a trip with me to Belleville, where it could easily be accessed either by the metro or by bus. Again, as per always, I recommend you taking the metro, because you can get out in one of the two stops. Take the line 11 metro, which is the brown one that runs from Chatelet as the main hub, and either get off at Belleville or Pyrénées.

If you get off at Belleville, you will be in the mist of the action. Stepping out from the stairs of the metro stop, you'll directly be on the main road of the area, which is Boulevard de Belleville. At this point, just take a minute to look around and check out your surroundings. There are a few directions you could take here, but I would recommend just going up the hill or down the hill. You will realise that the main road I've just mentioned is the flat road, and the hill is just the one that crosses it.

If you get off at Pyrénées, then you will have no choice but to go downhill. Well, I guess you do have choices, but I don't think going in other directions will you to many interesting things. So again, you will see a long road that looks like it has no end. This is the Rue de Belleville, in which will take you straight down the metro station Belleville. Now that you see the connection between the two stops, you can now decide which one to get out from.

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I will start the trip from the top of the hill, at the second metro stop. From here, you already have a few things to eat. There are plenty of kebab shops, bistros, and if you really need your fix, there's a McDonald's. We will be walking down the street just right on the side of McDonald's, so it's quite a good landmark to look out for. As I said, the street is a long one that goes straight down hill. From where you stand at the top, you may actually get to see The Eiffel Tower! This really depends on the day and if the weather is being kind, but ideally, you should be able to see the street with its shops on both sides, then the The Eiffel Tower in the back ground almost up there in the sky. I've seen a few decent pictures of this moment captured through instagram, and I must say that it's really neat. I go to this area about twice a week and given the strange weather of rain, clouds, sun, hail and what not, I have not had any luck this far in capturing this picturesque moment.

From here, let's take a stroll down hill, since it's easier to go down than to come back up. If you're on your bicycle, lucky you, because this is something you will really enjoy, but just be careful though, since the street is not very big. Take a walk down the street and really enjoy the contrasts this city has to offer. This is really an area for the locals, with a strong diversity. You will see barber shops (for really cheap), kebab shops, grocery stores, Chinese herbs and spices stores, restaurants of all sorts from Chinese, Thai to pizza. I haven't seen as much diversity as what Belleville has to offer since arriving in Paris. I think if you would like to stick to the city, then this place is really worth a stop.

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So if you just keep walking down for about five minutes, you will reach the intersection with Rue Julien Lacroix. You don't have to necessarily look out for the sign of the street name, since you will easily recognise it by the massive piece of building that you can see below. There's a huge painting on the side of the building, as well as a little garden that's been creatively decorated. I could confidently say that this is one of the attractions of the area, and a spot that's enjoyed by many photographers. If you're walking down this street on a decent afternoon, there would be very likely that you find a person taking photos of this stop. Just within this small radius, you've got a Japanese restaurant by the name of Asahi, that's always busy. I've never had the chance to try it (yet), but by the look of the things, business does not work too bad. The good thing about this Japanese restaurant (other than the fact that the name represents a very famous Japanese beer) is that they have outdoor seatings in their terrace. Just imagine sitting outside with Japanese food in this wonderful weather, overlooking the busy street and its arts.

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Just on the other side of the road, you've got a small pizza/kebab/burger joint called O'Kartier. This is a place that I could really recommend since I've tried it. I didn't have much time on that day, but I ordered a quick double cheeseburger with french fries, and the final receipt was less than €5. 00. One of the best things about this place, and the whole area, is that you can find really cheap eats. Paris is known to be an expensive dining city, but trust me, there are always places for us. So the menu is really diverse, here are the items they offer there:

Burgers:

  • Cheese Burger: €3. 00 alone, €3. 50 with fries, €4. 00 with fries and a drink. Made with beef patty, cheese, lettuce and tomato.
  • Double Cheese Burger: €4. 00 alone, €4. 50 with fries, €5. 00 with fries and a drink. Made with double beef patties, cheese, lettuce and tomato.
  • Fish Burger: €4. 00 alone, €4. 50 with fries, €5. 00 with fries and a drink. Made with fish, cheese, lettuce and tomato.
  • Chicken Burger: €4. 00 alone, €4. 50 with fries, €5. 00 with fries and a drink. Made with chicken, cheese, lettuce and tomato.
  • Regal Burger: €5. 50 alone, €6. 00 with fries, €6. 50 with fries and a drink. Made with double beef patties, fried egg, cold cut (ham, salami), cheese, lettuce and tomato.
  • Super Big: €6. 00 alone, €6. 50 with fries, €7. 00 with fries and a drink. Made with double beef patties, two fried eggs, cold cut (ham, salami), cheese, lettuce and tomato.
  • Royal Bacon: €5. 50 alone, €6. 00 with fries, €6. 50 with fries and a drink. Made with double beef patties, bacon, cheese, lettuce and tomato.
  • Galette Pommes de Terre: €5. 50 alone, €6. 00 with fries, €6. 50 with fries and a drink. Made with beef patty, galette de pommes de terre (similar to hash brown), lettuce and tomato.
  • Toast: €5. 50 alone, €6. 00 with fries, €6. 50 with fries and a drink. Made with beef patty, bacon, cheese, lettuce and tomato or double beef patties, double bacon, cheese, lettuce and tomato for an extra €0. 50 for each menu set.
  • Croque Monsieur: €4. 00 alone, €4. 50 with fries, €5. 00 with fries and a drink. The French classic of toasted sandwich with turkey ham, cheese and creme fraiche.

Sandwiches (Kebabs):

Luckily I did grab the menu for their sandwiches, so you could see the full range down below from the photo I took. I would recommend Le Bellevillois, which is a kebab with pieces of chicken, bacon, a fried egg and cheese. And of course from here, you get to choose if you want the lettuce, tomato and onions. The prices for this starts with €6. 80 for the actual kebab, €7. 00 for the sandwich and fries (only 20 centimes extra! ) and €7. 30 for the whole thing with a soft drink (an amazing upgrade for the full set for only 50 centimes). I think by now, you can agree that this area has some of the cheapest and most amazing street eats. If you know places similar to this elsewhere within the city area of Paris, let me know!

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Oh and just one last note on this amazing food joint is that, with everything you order, you get to choose a sauce to go with it. They understand and appreciate that we need a bit of sauce to spice up our meals (and our lives), so they will ask you to pick one from the lot. There are the usual household names like tomato ketchup, mayonnaise and barbecue, but they have more, a lot more. The rest of their impressive list is: Algérienne, Samourai, Blanche, Biggy, Burger, Andalouse, Harissa, Mustard, Pepper Sauce, Cheesy and Fish.

I have no idea what some of them are like Biggy, or Cheesy or Fish, but I can recommend Algérienne which is a sauce made from mayonnaise, seasoned with sautéed onion bits and a touch of harissa. Whatever else they add into this sauce is history and really shouldn't matter, because it tastes absolutely divine. It's an orange looking sauce very similar to Andalouse, but has sweet and rich notes, with a subtle touch of spiciness. This is a definitely must have and brushes over your ordinary ketchup, mayo and bbq any day.

On the other hand Samourai is actually nothing close to its Japanese name. If anything, I feel that this sauce is quite similar to harissa mixed with mayonnaise, but without that thick, rich and creamy mayonnaise texture. I also feel that this is more of a sauce for seafood, since it definitely has that strong touch of citrus and fresh lemon. I always hear people getting their kebabs with the samourai sauce, but I would recommend that you try just a little drop first before you choose it.

I swear I'm not advertising for them and that I don't get paid for mentioning all of this, but they also have pizzas, for only €5. 00. I really don't know where else we could find pizzas for this cheap in Paris, and yes, given that Paris is Paris, it brings me much joy to share this with fellow international students. The pizzas are decent in size and are 31cm in diameter. They come in all sorts of toppings such as these but not limited to them:

  • Marguerite: tomato, cheese and oregano.
  • Végétarienne: tomato, cheese, oregano, mushrooms, peppers, onions and olives.
  • Napolitaine: tomato, cheese, anchovy, capers and olives.
  • 4 Fromages: tomato, cheese, chevre, blue cheese and brie.
  • Venezia: creme fraiche, cheese and salmon.
  • Brulux: tomato, cheese, chicken bits from the kebab gyros and onions.

I have personally tried out their Brulux and must say that it's one of the best pizza deals you could get in the entire capital of France for only €5. 00. Unlike the kebabs, you don't get french fries with your pizza, as per normal. But what was a bit beyond normal was that you also don't get to pick which sauce you would like. They will give you a little packet of chilli sauce, but it usually doesn't do the pizza justice. I mean the brulux was fantastic with all the delicious ingredients baked fresh from the oven, but it was just lacking a sauce. Considering what the sauce and pizza combination could potentially turn out, we actually have to pay extra for the sauce, but that's only half a euro. So for fifty centimes, you could ask the super awesome staff for a choice of your preference.

Yes, I repeat all of this €5. 00 and they're 31 diameter in size, so you can bring your ruler if you're unsure and an extra €5. 00 if the first pizza leaves you wanting for more. Anyhow, they're open every day of the week from 11:00 a. m. until 2:00 a. m., but from 3:00 p. m. on Fridays because they work very hard already.

My apologies for completely going off track and carried away with the food, but hey, an army marches on its stomach right? Let's soldier on. From here, you may choose to go into Rue Julien Lacroix and take a walk or a seat in a park. There is a park at the end of the street with loads of space and most of the time, there isn't a lot of people there. Just to bring back the theme of the food, if you were to eat in a kebab shop, there are chances that your clothes and everything you have will carry on the smell of the kitchen. Alternatively, you can bring your take away food to the park and have a little picnic in the open air!

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Carry on downhill on Rue de Belleville and you will be greeted with countless restaurants, with the majority of them being Chinese. You will see what you don't get to experience in the other Chinatown of Paris, which is roasted duck and pork hung at the front through the display window. I find this very Chinese and also a great sign that the restaurant knows what they're doing. If you keep left on the street, you will have many choices for cheap Chinese eats. Most of them will have an a la carte menu as well as take away type display counter where you pick what you want and take a seat. One particular place that I have now visited three times in the past two weeks is called Wen Zhou in short. The actual name in front of the restaurant is much longer, but just look out for Wen Zhou and you'll be find.

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The restaurant is literally two minutes from Belleville station, and has a great array of really fast foods. You come in and point what you want, it will only cost €3. 50 a portion. With this main dish, you can also get a bowl of white rice for just €1. 20. So there you have it, a Chinese meal under €5. 00. Otherwise, you can also get steamed and fried buns here for under a euro. I tried it once and it was very good! This is another eatery that I would recommend if you were in the area and were to be low on fuel. The exact address for Wen Zhou is 24 Rue de Belleville.

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Furthermore, Wen Zhou also does really delicious pork buns. I am not sure of the official Chinese name for them, since the names are quite different in each dialect. In Thailand, however, these buns go by the name of Sa La Pao. Here, they're described in French as either steamed or grilled brioche buns with fillings of pork. I grew up eating these and I find that they do a really good job with these fluffy buns here. They're not completely fresh since they prepare it first thing in the morning, but only for €0. 90, you can get your hands on one of these. The portion is also quite big, so if you eat about four of them, you should be both full and satisfied for a lunch meal. If you choose to have them here, or sur place, then you can make use of the soya sauce on the table to dip your buns in. They are really tasty and I would highly recommend these not only for the taste but also for the full, Chinese dining experience.

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I promise that I will now stop with food, so this leads me to talk about drinks! The place to be for drinks is a bar known by the name of Aux Folies, just a minute from Wen Zhou up the hill on 8 Rue de Belleville. It's always pumping here, every night of the week. I've walked pass it on many occasions and it's always dynamic. They have many seats outside which is ideal as we're moving out from winter into spring. I've been told by friends that drinks here are reasonably priced, and for its location and ambience, there's no better spot to chill and hang out than this one.

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Just right next to Aux Folies, there is a street of an unknown name (at least to me) that has really, awesome graffiti and street art, all street long. This is very similar to Melbourne's Hosier Lane with a free flow in grafitti on the walls, and trust me, they're all really well preserved here. This little street is like a canvas of creativity here in Belleville. It is another one of those really protographed spots in the area, and if you're around here, you must absolutely visit it. I could say that if you do not see this street, or at least take one picture of it, you have just missed a massive chunk of the charms here at Belleville.

On certain days of the week, there's a casual market on Boulevard de Belleville, which as I mentioned at the beginning of post, is the main street that runs just outside the metro station. I would walk along the market with great care since it's not very legit. You will see the most random things like cell phones (even those older Nokia versions), remote controls, shampoos, shoes and so on. You can probably imagine what this market is like by now.

And oh, I've also found the best place to get Asian products. I mentioned about the two markets on Rue Sainte Anne earlier, but this one here is on another level. It's not a market, but a supermarket called Chen Market, just opposite Sephora. Here, you can get everything from fruits and veggies to big bags of rice. They also have a wider selection of frozen foods, drinks, sauces and snacks. I also found that the prices here are much more reasonable, maybe because the store is outside of the touristic zone. Well, it's definitely worth a visit if you're looking to bring home some Asian ingredients. The exact address for the market is 120 Rue du Faubourg du Temple, 75011.

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So this post actually covered a bit of a few arrondissements since we started off in the 20th and ended up on the 11th. For me, there is no competition for Belleville in what I currently know as Paris. There is just so much live and dynamics here on the time, and this really sets it apart. Not to mention the diversity around here, and of course, all the great food for a really cheap price. Since it's also the unofficial Chinatown of Paris, you can also attend their annual Chinese New Year Parade and Celebrations in this very area, which is quite neat. If you have an afternoon without any plans, I would strongly recommend that you hop on the metro and visit this area. Maybe come with an empty stomach around lunch time, so you could try one of the few places I threw out there.

Le Café Aux Folies - 20e: http://www.aux-folies-belleville.fr/

TripAdvisor comments on Asahi Japanese Restaurant, Rue de Belleville - Paris 19th Arrondissement: http://www.tripadvisor.fr/Restaurant_Review-g187147-d3973305-Reviews-Asahi-Paris_Ile_de_France.html

O'Kartier is on Twitter! But I would be more excited for their photo posts: https://twitter.com/kartier_o

If you like the content of this post, or just want to check out some pictures that I take on my adventure, feel free to like and/or follow me on Instagram at "oat93", cheers!

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